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Philippines gets first retail satellite service

Satellite broadband service provider is targeting "under-served" communities and aims to have 50,000 subscribers, mostly in the country's rural areas, in three years.
Written by Joel D. Pinaroc, Contributor

MANILA--Thaicom Public Company has signed a partnership deal with Philippine technology firm, We are IT Philippines (WIT), to offer satellite broadband services in the country.

In a press briefing Thursday, government-owned Thaicom said the broadband services will be powered by Thaicom's IPSTAR satellite, currently one of the largest satellites in Asia. Under the agreement, WIT will serve as the gateway operator of the satellite broadband services.

This is the first time the Philippines will be able to access "retail" satellite services, according to executives from the two companies.

Dumrong Kasemset, executive chairman of Thaicom, said Thaicom invested US$15 million to acquire the equipment and satellite bandwidth needed for the local rollout.

Kasemset added that the Philippines is now the eighth country in Asia where Thaicom has a footprint, joining Australia, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.

He noted that Thaicom decided to invest in the country because satellite broadband service "fits an archipelago like the Philippines".

Jose Maddatu, president of WIT, said the company will be targeting 50,000 subscribers--particularly those in rural areas--in the next two to three years. He added that there are still under-served communities in the Philippines, when it comes to Internet access.

According to Maddatu, WIT currently has 300 subscribers, mostly in Mindanao.

He said this week's announcement marks the first time a Philippine company will be offering "retail" satellite services, at a cost comparable to a typical DSL (digital subscriber line) connection.

"We believe there is a huge and an untapped market for satellite services in the Philippines," he noted.

However, the executive added that there are "challenges" targeting rural areas, as well as the low PC penetration, in the country. Maddatu said the company is "open" to working with government agencies to address these issues.

He added that WIT eventually plans to offer a prepaid satellite services scheme, although plans are still sketchy for now.

According to the two partners, the new satellite service will be branded as IPSTAR BigSky.

Subscribers across the Philippines can sign up for the entry-level service at US$49 a month, for a 512Kbps downlink and 256Kbps uplink service. However, subscribers may need to pay a separate entry fee that includes a deposit fee for the satellite dish and other equipment.

Consumers who need faster Internet access can pay an additional fee for a downlink/uplink speed of up to 2Mbps/1Mbps.

Nile Suwansiri, marketing head of Thaicom, said the IPSTAR satellite is capable of providing "full coverage" to 14 countries in Asia.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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